Derek and the Dominos: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Derek and the Dominos
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
With record labels using reissues to squeeze whatever they can out of their shrinking assets, almost every anniversary offers an excuse for repackaging. But when an album like Derek & the Dominos’ Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs gets a 40th-anniversary redo – in deluxe two-disc, super-deluxe four-disc-plus-goodies, vinyl and digital versions, no less – it’s worth taking a moment to consider why its songs have become etched in our collective psyche. And we’re not talking about the effect of over-saturation by classic-rock station, supermarket-aisle and waiting-room repetition. We mean the music itself.
Listening to Layla in its original sequence is an exercise in re-enlightenment. As soon as “I Looked Away” kicks in, all those years peel away and the purity of the music takes over. This plaintive, timeless track – with its great, organic harmonies, chiming, multi-layered guitar riffs and that searing solo bridge – is as sweet as ever, and remains one of the album’s strongest cuts. But it’s the emotional outpouring of “Bell Bottom Blues” that sets the tone for Clapton’s attempt to ease his lovelorn torture the only way he knew how.
By “Keep On Growing,” its easy groove driven by Jim Gordon’s taut, economical drumming and Carl Radle’s bass, you wish you could have been sitting in Miami’s Criteria Studios, smiling widely as the tape captured even the imperfections in Clapton and Whitlock’s supple vocal interplay. With those soaring chords and Clapton’s incredible overdubbed solos, it builds to a jaw-dropping finish. The bluesy “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” breaks the tension, as does the underappreciated “I Am Yours,” with its conga-and-guitar simplicity and delicate harmonies. A leisurely “To Tell The Truth” leads into “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?”, which wallops as hard as the opener. A super session between Clapton and guest Duane Allman, with Bobby Whitlock’s Memphis-soul-drenched voice adding the edge, it’s almost better than the title track. If Layla had ended right there, it still would be a classic. But when Clapton sings “Have you ever loved a woman/So much, you tremble in pain/All the time you know/She bears another man’s name,” his burning delivery of Billy Myles’ tune makes you writhe from his pain. The aching, yet majestic “Little Wing” cover that follows deserves its popularity over Hendrix’s original.
As for “Layla,” the song Clapton penned about his love for his best friend George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd… after seven minutes, through headphones, the oft-repeated lightning-in-a-bottle explanation is reconfirmed. They were so, so young. And that had everything to do with it. Clapton may be a guitar god, but this album made him a man. A man full of vulnerabilities and heartache, yet with just enough youthful fearlessness to seek the without-a-net experience of letting passion guide his playing. Having finally found kindred spirits who could catch him if he fell, he soared even higher. They all did. And even left a lovely little coda, Whitlock’s “Thorn Tree In The Garden,” as a safe place to land. The events that happened afterward may have cemented Layla’s mythical status, but the incomparable music still stands on its own.